Orangeburgh, South Carolina
8 – 10 July 1781
Lieutenant Colonel Watson had been broken by his campaign against Marion, and he retired as the Commander of the Provincial Light Infantry. Lieutenant Colonel Stewart had taken Watson’s regular regiment, the "Buffs" and the Provincial Light Infantry and began marching to Orangeburgh to reinforce Lord Rawdon.
Marion’s 400 horsemen moved through the darkness to intercept Stewart. Stewart was a better officer at partisan warfare than Watson had been, and did not move his men on well-traveled roads. The two corps passed by each other in the early hours of the morning.
Marion learned of his mistake and sent Colonel Horry to overtake the British. Horry overtook the supply trains, but Stewart got through to Orangeburgh and joined Lord Rawdon. When Stewart’s men arrived at Orangeburgh Rawdon’s force had been reinforced to 1,500 men. Colonel Cruger was also able to slip through the partisans and joined Rawdon with 1,300 more men from Ninety-Six.
The march was an initiation to the war in the South for many of the British regiments. Tarleton wrote, "During the greater part of the time, they were totally destitute of bread, and the country afforded no vegetables for a substitute. Salt at length failed; and their only resources were water, and the wild cattle which they found in the woods."
The Patriots were suffering as much as the British on their march. Kirkwood wrote, "Rice furnished our substitute for bread…Of meat we had literally none…Frogs abounded… and on them chiefly did the light troops subsist. Even the alligator was used by a few."
On July 10th Greene with the forces of Sumter, Marion, Washington, and Lee, took a position on the north side of Turkey Hill, four miles above Orangeburgh. They prepared for battle. Greene issued ammunition and sent the women and children off with the baggage wagons.
For two days his troops taunted Lord Rawdon, trying to entice him out of the well-defended garrison at Orangeburgh, but Rawdon declined to do battle. The British had little food. Alexander Chesney wrote "we had nothing but 1 pound of wheat in the straw served out to each man every 24 hours. The parties going out daily to forage had constant skirmishes with the enemy."
On July 12th Greene and his generals reconnoitered the British lines. The British were defending several buildings within the town and storming the town would be suicidal. Contented that he had offered battle, but knowing that he could not take the heavily fortified town, Greene retreated across the Santee. With Ninety-Six now abandoned Greene had accomplished his earlier objective. Greene’s Continentals had marched 323 miles in 23 days since the siege of Ninety-Six.
Greene divided up his army by sending all of his partisan leaders to strike at the British line of posts all the way to the gates of Charlestown. With the rest of his army Greene marched to the High Hills of the Santee to reestablish himself in force. Greene gave his cavalry and mounted militia orders to get behind Rawdon and to strike directly at Charlestown.
Since Snow’s Island had been compromised Marion established a new base on the Santee River, in upper St. Stephen’s Parish at Peyre’s Plantation. The new camp was in a cleared cane brake, a quarter of a mile from the Santee River, and at the western end of a swamp known as Gaillard’s Island.
As Sumter neared the lower country he broke into separate detachments. Rawdon ordered 500 of his men to pursue Sumter. Lee was sent to the British fort at Dorchester, Wade Hampton was sent towards Charlestown to harass the British posts there, and Marion was sent to engage Colonel Coates at Monck’s Corner.